Best practices to quickly recover from a hard disk drive failure

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq. and Enrique Serrano

How to recover from hard disk crash

When a hard drive fails, the consequences can be devastating. In addition to losing data, time is lost wiping or replacing the hard drive and configuring software. However, there are some relatively simple steps you can take to protect against a crash.

1. Cloud storage

We’ve written a lot about cloud storage recently. The term refers to a method for backing up electronic files on the Web and storing the information in remote centers. There are several cloud-based storage services that offer free accounts with gigabytes of available storage space.

The benefits of using a cloud service to store your files go beyond just fast and inexpensive backup. Cloud storage platforms also allow you to quickly sync the files on all your devices such as your office computer, home computer, laptop, smartphone and iPad. The system interfaces are fairly easy and intuitive, usually allowing you to designate automatically backed up folders in your hard drive after a straightforward installation process.

cloud backup of files

But we have written about the downsides to cloud storage as well as the lawyer’s duty to safeguard confidential information. Recently, the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility released a comprehensive opinion on cloud storage that is extremely helpful. If you are considering cloud storage, you’ll find the ethics opinion instructive.

Here’s a list of a few cloud storage services that you can use:

To enhance your cloud storage security, file encryption tools are available. For further information on open source software like TrueCrypt, read “Cloud-Based Storage Continues to be a Hot Topic for Lawyers.”

2. Backup your most important files to a removable hard drive

Removable external hard disk drives can be another good option for keeping your data safe. Modern external hard drives are compact, lightweight and unexpensive, and if your computer has USB 3.0 enabled ports, using a USB 3.0 compatible portable disk will allow having lightning-fast data transfer speeds.

It is a good idea to keep your removable hard drives in a safe location to guard against force majeure incidents like fires or floods. And if you are concerned about the risk of theft or unauthorized access, consider taking the hard disk encryption steps that can also be used for cloud storage.

3. Use Evernote to keep all your notes in one place

note storage in the cloud

If you take lots of notes and you’re worried about losing the information, Evernote is a great resource. Evernote combines the advantages of cloud storage with the ease of note taking on laptops, smartphones and tablets. Evernote offers apps for all kind of devices which means syncing information is a breeze. It allows the user to clip webpages and snips emails makes easy to capture the information that you want to store. And finding relevant information inside all your notes is an easy process since you’re able to tag your notes and group them in virtual notebooks. In a nutshell, Evernote is a synced, paperless and failproof environment to store your ideas.

To learn more about how Evernote can help your productivity, read Evernote App Review: An Alternative to Printing Information.

4. Use a cloud based planning system like Nozbe

planning stored in the cloud

A hard disk drive failure can take away more than just a set of files. Case file management, to do lists and project planning are also commonly kept on a computer. As we detailed on “Nozbe App Review: Productivity App to Get Things Done,” Nozbe is one productivity app that allows you to keep your projects and schedules safe from any computer breakdown, and synced accross multiple devices.

An added advantage about Nozbe is that it combines seamlessly with Evernote and Dropbox, so it is possible to retrieve notes and files that are integrated.

backup browser bookmarks

5. Back up your bookmarks

A hard disk failure erases Internet links. Losing the links is like forgetting a shortcut and it takes a while to retrace your steps back to your favorite sites. One of the most straightforward ways to keep your browser bookmarks synced is to use the built-in bookmark syncing features of Google Chrome.

6. Use a software installer for favorite apps

Many apps and software programs are free downloads or open-source software. If your hard drive crashes, you have to download and install them all over again one at a time — unless you use Ninite. A one-stop software installer for many popular programs, Ninite allows users to select apps and run the installs all at once.

One click software installer

The set of apps available for quick install at Ninite includes web browsers (like Chrome, Firefox and Safari,) messaging apps (like Skype,) basic runtimes of your computer (like Flash and Java,) document processors (like Office or OpenOffice,) security tools (like the AVG antivirus or the Malwarebytes malware remover,) and many other useful apps, including several apps mentioned on this article (like Dropbox, Evernote and TrueCrypt.)

Are there any other cloud-based storage services, tips or tricks you would suggest to minimize the impact of a hard disk drive failure? Please let us know in the comments below.